The second major tributary of the southern musical tradition comes
from the African continent and is the heritage import of the five million
slaves brought to North America against their will to provide the bulk of
the labor in the pre-industrial agrarian south. Contemporary blues, while
not exclusively black music by any means, remains largely black in terms of
its leading performers and, to a lesser extent, its listening audience.
The forerunner of the modern urban blues was, however, almost exclusively
black and was completely southern and rural. It was, and is, a music born
out of the experience of slavery and Jim Crow segregation with their
attendant poverty, alienation and suppression. As a musical genre, this
remarkable and durable expression has an enormous relevance for the
historical development of southern music in general and the southern black
experience in particular.
Modern blues evolved out of the southern "country blues" and became an
urban phenomenon in the same social, economic and demographic processes
which urbanized black Americans during the two or three decades prior to
World War II. Thus, an examination of the black country blues provides a
potentially fruitful vehicle for the study of southern rural culture viz a
viz the black experience. At the very least, it provides a means for
assessing the perceptions of southern culture which were held and
articulated by a sensitive group of observers -- the bluesmen and
blueswomen of the rural south. The extent to which their music was
received, popularized and appreciated by their audience provides a broader
look at the hopes and drea...
... middle of paper ...
development, display similar structural and thematic content and have,
since the 1960s, begun to recognize and celebrate these commonalities.
Chapple, Steve and Reebee Garofalo. Rock and Roll is Here to Pay.
Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1977.
Elkins, Stanley. Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and
Intellectual Life, 2nd ed. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1968.
Morthland, John. The Best of Country Music. Garden City: Doubleday, 1984.
Oliver, Paul. Savannah Syncopators: African Retentions in the Blues.
London: November Books, Limited, 1970.
Smith, M.G. "Social and Cultural Pluralism," in Annals of the New York
Academy of Sciences 83 (January, 1957):763-777.
Van den Berghe, Pierre. Race and Racism: A Comparative Perspective, 2nd ed.
New York: Wiley, 1978.
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